Though on this page and other pages I have admitted that Malawi needs more graduates in mathematics and science subjects, I have pointed out that first and foremost, we need competent managers and administrators. At present, we are not sufficiently organised for success.
From time to time, I have come across reports of a Berlin organisation called Transparency International which has classified Malawi as one of the countries where corruption is rampant. My patriotic mind has dismissed these allegations as merely giving a dog a bad name to get it hanged.
The Cashgate scandal and recent commentaries in the media by members of the public confirm that Malawi is indeed morally decadent, is getting worse and deserves dramatic reforms both in the civil service and politics.
The Cashgate scandals could not have taken place over an extended period had the civil service contained enough honest people to blow the whistle and alert the law enforcement officials. They were turning their eyes away when they saw somebody engaged in fraud because they themselves were engaged in bribery and corruption. It was a question of if you are silent about what I am doing, I will be silent about what you are doing.
The remedy lies in reorganising ourselves differently. Both in the civil service and politics, we will go further with the reforms if we invite foreigners with experience and expertise to have a look at what are trying to achieve. The most effective reforms are often those which are comparable with what is working successfully elsewhere.
It has been learnt recently that certain officials of a ministry had given a blank cheque to an organisation in UK to publicise Malawi’s investment opportunities in Time magazine. But when the organisation presented its huge bill, the officials got alarmed. Apparently, they had not budgeted for the casual contract. This is an astonishing manner of handling funds of a government that is on the verge of insolvency. We need civil servants who understand the phrase ‘value for money’. Even wealthy countries do not tell a contractor ‘go and do the job and charge us what you like’.
The civil service is the most important part of Malawi’s economy. If inefficiency and corruption are left to fester untackled, the private sector will also fail to perform to the optimum; contracts will continue to be awarded to those who know someone rather than those who have the skills. Where there is lack of ability, there is cunning. Those with sweet tongues and pleasant faces do not always have the brains and yet they are the ones who are granted the patronage. Benjamin Franklin was right when he said in bad governments and rivers, light things swim at the top.
That Malawi has some of the most intelligent people in Africa was noted as far back as 1924 by the Phelps Stokes Commission on African education in eastern Africa. But intelligence in a person who is not self-motivated is no good. He must get organised for achievement, be clear in his mind what he wants to do and organise the resources for attaining his goals. This is true also for a nation.
Corruption, like prostitution, cannot be completely eradicated. But Scandinavian countries which are comparable in size with Malawi are reputed to be the most corruption-free. We have good relationships with these countries. Why do we not take a leaf out of their method of minimizing depravity? Civilisation has always been a matter of borrowing from others. Even geniuses in science and literature like Isaac Newton and William Shakespeare attained their greatness on the foundations laid by others.
The launch of the book on excesses of the one party system (1964-1994) has pleased some but not all Malawians. As soon as the multi-party era was restored in the second half of the 1990’s, some people suggested that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, like that of South Africa to be set up. The calls fell on deaf ears partly because some of those in the new government had served in the one-party regime.
Let us not forget that under the Kamuzu/MCP era, very few people were immune from the wrath of the State. Those who have written the book should take pains to explain that it is not intended to embarrass the current leadership of the MCP. Those who were not part of the MCP establishment of the one-party era must concentrate on pointing out that their own hands are clean.